Today’s kids might be surprised to learn that nerds weren’t always the bullies. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s liking comic books and playing videogames past middle school would get you mocked, ridiculed, probably pantsed and swirlied every now again, and even, sometimes, straight-up punched in the nose. It was a tough life, but stuff like that Mark Gruenwald story where Captain America accidentally gets high on angel dust made it worth it.
What a difference a couple of decades makes. Nerd stuff became “cool” at some point in the ‘00s, and now, if you’re Extremely Online, it’s basically turned toxic, with any number of pissed off Fill-in-the-Blank-Gate groups trying to bully and hashtag anybody they disagree with out of making or writing about videogames, comic books and more. This has all sullied what people think of when they hear the word nerd. No longer the prey, or the former wallflower turned surprisingly popular, the stereotypical nerd now represents hostility and close-mindedness. It’s like they never even paid attention to any of the X-Men comics in their longboxes.
Hopefully Mike Lawrence will help change that impression. If you’ve ever heard his stand-up, read his Twitter, or seen his appearances on the old @Midnight show, you know he’s really into comics and games and wrestling. That is great—all three of those things are wonderful and shouldn’t be dragged down by their worst fans. Thankfully Lawrence isn’t one of them. He loves cool stuff and isn’t an asshole about it, even though, as anybody who saw him win the first season of Comedy Central’s Roast Battle knows, he can be a great asshole when he wants to be.
Lawrence releases his second stand-up album tomorrow on Comedy Central Records, and like his 2013 debut Sadamantium, its title should act like a beacon to anybody who shares Lawrence’s interests. Mega Manchild is named after the Mega Man videogames, of course. The amazing cover art (which you can see at the bottom of this page) references the level select screen from the early NES Mega Mans, but with the real villains replaced by a line-up pulled from Lawrence’s own fears and insecurities. That summarizes his voice pretty neatly: like so many comedians, he mines his own anxieties for much of his material, with pop culture references deployed when needed. He doesn’t just use the reference for a punchline or an easy pop of recognition, though, but as a way to add context and meaning to what he’s saying. And if you’re thinking that pretty much every comedian mines their own anxieties, well, Lawrence does it in a way that’s almost always funny, honest and original.
You can get a sense of that in this exclusive preview of Mega Manchild. On “Getting Fat” Lawrence talks about, well, getting fat, and the everyday little indignities fat people have to deal with. Listen to it below, and check out Mega Manchild when it’s out tomorrow. Here’s the iTunes page for that. And if you’re the kind of person who likes to see comedians as well as hear them, Lawrence also has an episode of Comedy Central Stand-up Presents premiering on Comedy Central tomorrow night.